‘I could not believe they said my name’: Emma Salzwedel named Miss USD 2020
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‘I could not believe they said my name’: Emma Salzwedel named Miss USD 2020

Ten young women filled the stage in Farber Hall. The moment they’d been waiting for had finally arrived. Months of preparation, weeks of practicing and countless hours of anticipation ended as the Miss USD competition began.

The Miss USD competition, a local qualifier for the Miss South Dakota competition was held last Sunday. Junior criminal justice major Emma Salzwedel took the crown in her first time competing for the title.

“My family has so many pictures of my face in total shock,” Salzwedel said. “I could not believe they said my name. It was just exhilarating knowing after that moment, my life would never be the same.”

The Miss USD competition, open to women between the ages of 17 and 25, consists of several events including a private interview, talent competition and evening wear and onstage question presentation.

Carrie Wintle, the executive director of Miss USD, said these events help judges get to know the young women and understand how they could fulfill the role of Miss USD. Wintle also said Miss USD is a chance for these young women to reach their academic goals and earn scholarships. 

“The underlying purpose behind the entire organization truly is helping young women pursue their education and then, in turn, pursue their goals and impact their communities along the way,” Wintle said.

In the interview portion, the participants discuss their social impact initiatives. Salzwedel said her initiative is all about social stereotyping, specifically in the realm of pageantry. 

“I want to use my platform to get a new image of pageant girls out there,” Salzwedel said. “I want to show people that you have to be intelligent, you have to be up-to-date on current events and you have to do a lot of work to be a titleholder.”

To prepare for Miss USD, Salzwedel studied up on the Miss America organization, past titleholders and current events.

Wintle is the director of Miss USD now, but her involvement with the Miss South Dakota organization started when she was 13. When she competed for Miss South Dakota’s Outstanding Teen, which she won in 2008. When she was eligible, she started competing for Miss South Dakota and won that title in 2018.

Wintle said her involvement in the Miss USD and the Miss South Dakota organizations has “transformed” her life.

“I think that when I was 13 years old, I was so shy, painfully shy,” Wintle said. “Once I started competing in the organization and the way I’ve seen it transform my life has been really incredible.”

Sazwedel said the Miss USD competition is about more than wearing a crown.

“It is definitely a confidence booster walking around in a shiny crown but it is empowering to know you were chosen to represent whatever title you were given,” Salzwedel said. “I am incredibly honored to be able to represent our little liberal arts school here and just kind of put us on the map in whatever way I can. I think anyone can try it.”